FEATURED

FEATURED
This year's festival runs from 16-23 Dec. Click on the photo for more

Saturday, 31 January 2015

THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

"This is what we want in our lives - get married and then have kids and live in a nuclear family.  To question that lifestyle is very provocative in our time"
Ruben Ostland

Les Arcs' connections with the film industry are further strengthened this week with the launch of Snow Therapy, a Franco-Swedish film set in a French ski resort - aka you-know-where.

The film is called Turist in Swedish and
Force Majeure in English-speaking countries

While at a mountain restaurant that looks rather like La Creche at the top of the Transarc, a Swedish family witnesses an avalanche which briefly threatens the assembled skiers.  It turns out to be a false alarm.  But, amidst all the excitement, the father apparently makes a run for it - taking his iPhone, while leaving his family.  Result: the existing family relationships, including his role as "patriarch" are thrown upside down.

The film made its debut at Cannes, but is now on general release in France.  It is getting quite good reviews, like this one in Le Parisien.   The New York Times quite likes it too.

Many of the Les Arcs' sights are on show - including a scene on the Transarc, and fine shots of the architecture, including the family's holiday accommodation in what looks like Belles Challes in Arc 1800:


Sunday, 25 January 2015

THE LONG WAY DOWN

The famous descent from the Aiguille Rouge down to Villaroger features in this week's welove2ski.com snapshot of the world's longest ski runs.

Click here for a little more on the run.  If weather and (your stamina) permits, it's good to do it two days in a row.  On day one, take it all in one go and crash out at La Ferme in Villaroger for a well deserved lunch.  The next day, allow time for pottering around the various reds on the Villaroger side, coffee at the Solliet, etc.

Finally, don't forget La Plagne's 2000m descent from the Glacier all the way down to Montchauvin.  This never appears in the guide books because there is a 2km flat bit below Les Bauches.  But it's worth persevering - more here.

En route to La Plagne's Glacier.
This "characterful" gondola will
be replaced soon

Saturday, 17 January 2015

THE SEASON SO FAR: A tour of Les Arcs

One month into the season, a quick tour around the resort to pick up on what's occurring.

At 1800, the big news is of course the Mille 8 development, which is settling down well.  A new ski cross course (Les Bosses) was built at the end of the year, running parallel to the foot of the Vagere lift.  It will video your performance, giving you the option to review your style half way down the run and upload the film to social media, if you so wish...

Peak time queues do remain a problem at Arc 1800, and the Vagere simply can't cope with New Year and February crowds.  Help is at hand, however..  The next stage of the Masterplan for the resort will be the new Col des Frettes lift, which will give a direct link to Arc 2000.  Two bits of gossip on this:

1. It will leave from Edenarc/Chantel - the intention is to create a new "axis" from the upmarket development.

2. Although the budget is in place, planning permission is not yet forthcoming.  So let's see if it arrives for 2015/16.  Meanwhile, it looks like the "urban lift" which will link Edenarc/Chantel directly with the front de neige will happen in time for next season.

New Year crowds at Arc 1800

Up at the Col de la Chal, the new extension to the La Creche restaurant is now open - giving another 80 or so seats for dining inside, without feeling that the space on the panoramic terrace has been compromised.  (For a summer view of the site, click here).   It's arguably the best place in resort for a mid-morning coffee, although for lunch I would tend to go elsewhere.

La Creche, Col de la Chal

La Creche just got bigger

One place worth considering for eating is the Bulle café in Arc 2000.  It is now well-established and has a bit of a buzz about it.  This relatively new establishment gets high marks for its varied offering - those with deeper pockets have oysters and champagne on offer; student types can opt for a slice of pizza at less than €3.  For more on where to eat in Les Arcs click here.

January weather outside the Bulle café

Local hero Simon Beck has been in resort, and he was creating one of his trademark pieces below the Varet earlier in the month:

Impressed? Click here for more...

Looking ahead to March and April, take a look at this account of late season skiing in the Telegraph.  And, because of the changes to the French school holiday calendar, it is likely to be very quiet.  Much to the irritation of resort bosses and businesses.

A "dinky facsimile of a traditional ski village", according
to Ben Ross of the Telegraph. Click here for a guide to
the original (and far more interesting)
architecture of Les Arcs

Saturday, 10 January 2015

JE SUIS CHARLIE: En Savoie

Here's a summary of the response in Savoie to the Charlie Hebdo attacks from Le Dauphiné.  The newspaper came up with a striking cover reprinting cover images from the publication:

Click here for the latest news from Le Dauhphiné

Up in the Tarentaise, see the following from Tarentaise Source magazine.  Perhaps the stand-out local image is from the Evolution 2 Ski School in La Rosiere:

Source: Evolution 2 ski school, La Rosiere

In Les Arcs this week, we saw "Je Suis Charlie" messages appearing across the ski area:

Above Arc 1800


Bois de l'Ours, Arc 1950

And in Tignes, as in other resorts, everything stopped at 12 on Thursday:

At the foot of the Grande Motte

Sunday, 4 January 2015

SNOWMAGEDDON: The Aftermath

Last weekend's travel chaos in the Alps made front page news on both sides of the Channel.  At the heart of it was some very bad luck: the first major snowfall of winter arriving on one of the year's busiest changeover Saturdays.

All of this was then compounded by a very unusual meteorological phenomenon: icy rain. This prompted various accidents on the (relatively low altitude) dual carriageway between Albertville and Moutiers.

Sad times on the road to Moutiers, Sunday 28th December

This article (in French) from Le Parisien gives a blow-by-blow account of what happened. Just 7,000 out of 36,000 vehicles on their way to the Tarentaise made it to their chosen resort.  Some 8,000 spent the night in one of the emergency shelters.  Others (including me) had to make do with a night in the car at a service station...

For an account of the immediate aftermath, see this account from David Chazan in the Telegraph.  Peter Hardy (also in the Telegraph) picks up on the story and looks at what the British ski operators were doing this weekend to ensure that the post-New Year exodus from the mountain went smoothly.

The result: France 0, Switzerland 1.  By and large, the Swiss avoided the shambles on the French side of the border.

A detailed post-mortem has duly ensued.  A number of themes emerge:

1.  Un-joined-up government.  It was utterly unclear who was in charge.  The Mayor of Moutiers ranted in the Dauphiné a day or two later about communications breakdowns, demanding answers.  Val Thorens was ready to receive coaches, he gave the go-ahead for them to make the climb, but other authorities said non, so the coaches stayed put.  He had space for 400 people, and ended up with 3,000.  Etc.

2.  Lack of real-time information.  The authorities seemed reluctant to use social media, for example, with very little advice coming through on the night of 27th/28th Dec.

3.  Well-meaning communications can be counter-productive: "Snow Chains Obligatory at Moutiers" signs on the motorways compounded the problems.  Paradoxically, the bouchons were exacerbated by people putting chains on too soon, thereby blocking carriageways on the N90, slowing traffic and probably shredding many tyres.

4.  The emergency plan generally seemed to work well in terms of liberating places for stranded people to sleep.  Rather oddly, the service stations on the motorways do not seem to form part of these plans.  At the Aire de Chignin, where we spent the night, the Arche Restaurant closed its doors at about 11, not to reopen until 7am.

5.  It's rather a good idea to have snow chains and/or snow tyres.  The whole episode has reignited a dreary debate about hapless holiday makers arriving in the mountains ill-equipped and without a clue.  Haute-Alpes politician Joel Giraud questions why on earth France does not make having specialist equipment compulsory, just as it is in neighbouring Alpine countries, and comes up with the following quote:

France must return to the norms of civilised countries 
where each person is responsible for their actions - including when it snows in winter

For British skiers, the main take-away is to be careful if you hire a car from French airports, including the French side at Geneva airport - in contrast to the scenario in Switzerland, your car is unlikely to have snow tyres as standard.

Next date for the diary is 21 Feb, when motorists from all 3 French holiday zones are likely to be on the move...

Saturday, 3 January 2015

JAMES BOND: BACK ON THE PISTE

The Telegraph reports that James Bond will shortly be making a welcome comeback to the ski slopes, with scenes from the forthcoming Spectre film to be shot in the excellent resort that is Soelden.

In doing so, they took the opportunity to revisit some of the great ski scenes from the past.  Click here for the photos.

And, from this blog, here are some video clips, featuring Cortina, St Moritz and Murren...


Thursday, 1 January 2015

WHAT'S NEW IN LES ARCS: Mille 8

The big news in Arc 1800 this year is the revolution taking place on the Chantel slopes - part of an ambitious €30m investment by Compagnie des Alpes.  The new development is billed Mille 8, and includes a new gondola, beginners' area, luge track and "discovery" blue run.

Click here for more on Mille 8

The telecabine replaces the crusty old Villards chairlift.  It comprises 8-seater cabins which you can sit down in.  Journey time is only a couple of minutes.  Very nice it is too:

The Villards telecabine

At the summit is a dedicated beginners' zone, well away from the pistes, with a covered lift.  Coupled with the new blue run, Arc 1800 has now moved overnight from being quite a poor place for beginners to a being a very good prospect indeed.

There is also a new run which goes directly under the Vagere lift.  It is called Les Bosses, so one imagines it may become a mogul field once there is enough slow.  Part of the descent includes a "video zone" - it looks like you can pause and watch your skiing on a big screen.

Next year there will be a restaurant on the site, which will make it a real focal point.  With the addition in 2015/16 of a pedestrian lift to Edenarc & Chantel, and the new chair giving direct access to Arc 2000, it's fair to say that Arc 1800 is going through something of a transformation.

The lift gives direct access to the MGM Chantel apartments

The local council has provided the money for the new indoor swimming pool on site. Arc 1800's redundant ice rink has been replaced with new pools which are open summer and winter.  The entrance is next to the Vagere, with a lift to take you up to the site.

There is an option of including swimming as part of a week's lift pass

Building the indoor pool has involved extension
to the right and rear of the existing building